Monday, January 5, 2004

New Ohio Graduation Test doesn't apply to older students

Education Q&A

Q: For years, high school students had to pass the Ohio Proficiency Test to obtain their diploma. This spring, sophomores will begin taking parts of the new Ohio Graduation Test. What will happen to the older students who never passed the proficiency test? Will they now have to pass the newer, tougher graduation test to get their diploma?

A: Students who failed the Ohio ninth-grade proficiency tests and didn't receive a diploma can still keep trying .

"They are grandfathered in ... and the new Ohio Graduation Test does not apply to them," says Michael O'Laughlin, curriculum director for Cincinnati public schools.

The old proficiency test was a ninth-grade test, though students had until senior year - and even beyond - to pass it. Those who passed received diplomas; those who didn't received certificates of attendance, merely proving they attended four years of high school.

The Ohio Graduation Test is harder because it's based on 10th-grade academics. Students have fewer chances to take it, but if they fail they gain another way to get a diploma - through in-school performance and attendance.

Students had at least nine chances to pass the proficiency. Beginning in spring 2005, sophomores will take all five parts of the new test and can try it twice their junior year and at least twice their senior year.

QUESTION: I keep hearing that teacher expectations affect student performance in school, even impacting kids' chances at college. Is there any proof of it?

ANSWER: Leaders of ACT Educational Services, a national college test firm based in Iowa City, Iowa, said their National Curriculum Survey 2002-03 provides some proof that teachers are "less likely" to teach certain higher-level reading skills to classes made up of students they assume aren't going to college.

"These results are troubling," says Cynthia Schmeiser, ACT's senior vice president of research and development, "particularly since we don't really know what criteria schools are using to categorize students as 'non-college bound.' ''

The findings are based on the responses of 495 high school teachers and 297 junior high or middle school teachers. The survey polled 5,699 educators in total from colleges, high schools and middle schools nationwide, and is based on 1,041 responses.

Secondary school teachers' responses show that about three-fourths of the reading skills listed as important in the survey are taught with greater frequency in high schools composed primarily of college-bound students than in high schools not dominated by such students.

These higher-order reading skills include: analyzing a text to identify an author's unstated assumptions, recognizing and understanding satire, and evaluating information in a text for completeness or for ambiguities.


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